Crimea’s history is long and fascinating. Sevastopol, Baba Manya’s birthplace, is close to the ancient colony of «Chersonesus», which was founded by the Greeks more than 2,500 years ago in the southwestern part.
The name «Chersonesus» means peninsula, as the colony was situated between two bays. The name was contracted to «Cherson/Khersones» and had the nickname of the «Russian Troy».
Crimea had long endured a series of conquests and invasions and it was occupied by the Crimean Khanate and Ottoman Empire in the 15th to 18th centuries. However, as part of the broad expansion of the Russian Empire, Crimea was annexed by Catherine the Great on August 13, 1783, and Sevastopol was made the port for the Imperial Navy’s Black Sea Fleet.
She also established a protectorate for Georgia and that gave Russia access to the Black Sea from two sides.
Four years after Crimea’s annexation, Catherine arrived there from St Petersburg. 12,000 Tatar horsemen in ceremonial dress met her and escorted her to the Khan’s Palace at Bakhchisarai. The stone plaque which was placed there to commemorate the occasion can still be seen today.
Catherine then travelled to Sevastopol, meeting with her governor-general, Prince Potemkin, then carried on to Akh-Mechet (present day Simferopol), Stariy Krim and Feodosia.
During the 19th Century the Ottoman Empire declined and it caused a complex international power struggle between the major countries in Europe.
The Crimean War was, in fact, set off by a squabble over custodianship of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which was in the hands of the Turks.
In 1852 the French persuaded the Turks to take the take the church away from the Greek Orthodox Church and place it in the hands of the Roman Catholic Church.
Despite Tsar Nicholas I’s demand that the Turks return custodianship back to the Greek Church, the Turks refused. There were clashes between the Catholic and Orthodox monks and a number of the Orthodox monks were killed. Nicholas was quick to blame the Turks and demanded that the dispute be resolved in the Orthodox Church’s favour.
He sent his envoy, Aleksandr Sergeyevich Menshikoff, to Constantinople (present day Istanbul) with a list of demands to be met by the Ottoman Sublime Porte (the Turkish court). Unfortunately the Turks refused to accede to the demands so Nicholas mobilised the army against the Ottoman Empire, whom he referred to as «the sick man of Europe», because the once-great power was crumbling and losing its grip on its empire.
Sublime Porte declared war on Russia on October 4, 1853, and the next month the Russians destroyed the Ottoman Black Sea fleet at Sinop, giving them control of the Black Sea.
Alarmed by this, France, Britain and Piedmont-Savoy joined the Ottoman Empire against the Russians and the wounded from the Crimean War gave Florence Nightingale a chance to show the medical fraternity how to care for sick patients from the battlefield.
«A joint (allied) invasion force, over 60,000 strong, of British, French and Turkish troops landed at Kalamatia Bay, north of Sevastopol, on 14 -16 September 1854. The landings were unopposed by the Russians. W.H. Russell, an Irish journalist writing for The Times, witnessed the early allied operations and noted that ‘The French, though they had tents, had no cavalry; the Turks had neither cavalry nor food; the British had cavalry, but they had neither tents nor transport, nor ambulances nor litters.’ It was clear that there were flaws in the organisation of the joint forces.»
[source: The National Archives]
The major battles fought in Crimea were the …
- Battle of Alma, 20 September 1854
- Siege of Sevastopol, 25 September 1854 to 8 September 1855
- Battle of Balaclava, 25 October 1854 (see also Charge of the Light Brigade and The Thin Red Line)
- Battle of Inkerman, 5 November 1854
- Battle of Eupatoria, 17 February 1855
- Battle of the Chernaya (aka “Traktir Bridge”), 16 August 1855
- Sea of Azoff naval campaign, May to November 1855
- Siege of Kars, June to 28 November 1855
[source: Wiki Crimean War]
On February 1, 1856, Russia accepted the preliminary peace terms when she heard that Austria was threatening to join the allies. The Treaty of Paris, signed on March 30, 1856, finally ended the war.
Just 24 years later, Maria Makeeva was born!
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